From the Director's Desk
Emeka Nwokeji, Director of Consumer Involvement

As you are aware, I am no longer a regular contributor to the Consumer's Voice. I gave up the privilege to our editor, Elaine McHugh, a long time ago. Our editor asked me to break my silence during the month of October for an exceptional reason. October is recognized as "National Disability Employment Awareness Month."

It is the designated month of the year during which the partnership of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) and the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) reaches out to their stakeholders to recommit their dedication to improving employment opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities.

"National Disability Employment Awareness Month" allows us the opportunity to direct our public education efforts. We are primarily focused on educating employers about people with disabilities and their readiness to work and accept employment by choice.

In the State there are numerous avenues by which the skill sets and talents of these individuals are being advanced. These job-ready employment initiatives include, but are not limited to, the MRC Vocational Rehabilitation Programs funded through the Rehabilitation Act; Title 1 of the Workforce Investment Act; Work Without Limits, a disability employment initiative funded by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services through a grant awarded to the University of Massachusetts Medical School; and the Employment NOW Coalition (ENC), a cross disability coalition that advocates for consumer-driven changes in public and private policy toward employment.

As a result of the efforts of the ENC, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, through an Executive Order, declared "The State as a Model Employer of Citizens of the Commonwealth with Disabilities".

I am sure most of you will agree that advocates in the disability world are alert and actively working with public and private sector employment services to reduce our unemployment rate.

The State Rehabilitation Council held their Annual meeting September 13, 2010, and held their annual elections resulting in the following outcome:

Mr. Joe Bellil, Chairperson, Mr. Nicholas Kaltsas, Vice Chairperson and Mr. Mark Bornemann, Secretary to the Council.

All three officers have a background in community advocacy for people with disabilities. Mr. Bellil is the Vice President of Public Affairs at Easter Seals. Mr. Kaltsas is an attorney specializing in Elder and Disability law. Mr. Bornemann, was the Vice President of Personnel at Lo-Jack until July 2010.

I would like to thank the outgoing executive members who have served the MRC and the SRC with distinction, Mr. Owen Doonan, Mr. Warren Magee and Dr. Susan Ventura.

All members of the SRC, past, present and future are advocates, better still warriors. They stand ready and willing to fight for the employment of people with disabilities and their right to live independently in their community of choice.

I encourage everyone to consider how each of us can continue to promote employment and the full inclusion of people with disabilities in Massachusetts. There are many opportunities to serve, whether it is on the SRC, a committee, a task force or other statewide program advisory council. Do not hesitate to contact me by phone 617-204-3624 or e-mail Emeka.nwokeji@mrc.state.ma.us

I look forward to hearing from you and identifying your best service advocacy skills.

Calendar Year 2011 State Rehabilitation Council Meeting Dates

Please reserve the following dates for the State Rehabilitation Council's 2011 meeting dates and locations. All Meeting times: 1:00 pm until 3:30 pm

  • Monday March 7, 2011 TBD/South (Region)
  • Monday June 6, 2011 TBD/North (Region)
  • Monday September 12, 2011 TBD/West (Region)
  • Monday December 5, 2011 TBD/Metro West (Region)

Executive Order-- Increasing Federal Employment of Individuals with Disabilities
Reprinted with permission from Update a DMH publication

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to establish the Federal Government as a model employer of individuals with disabilities, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. Approximately 54 million Americans are living with a disability. The Federal Government has an important interest in reducing discrimination against Americans living with a disability, in eliminating the stigma associated with disability, and in encouraging Americans with disabilities to seek employment in the Federal workforce. Yet Americans with disabilities have an employment rate far lower than that of Americans without disabilities, and they are underrepresented in the Federal workforce. Individuals with disabilities currently represent just over 5 percent of the nearly 2.5 million people in the Federal workforce, and individuals with targeted disabilities (as defined below) currently represent less than one percent of that workforce.
On July 26, 2000, in the final year of his administration, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13163, calling for an additional 100,000 individuals with disabilities to be employed by the Federal Government over five years. Yet few steps were taken to implement that Executive Order in subsequent years.
As the Nation's largest employer, the Federal Government must become a model for the employment of individuals with disabilities. Executive departments and agencies must improve their efforts to employ workers with disabilities through increased recruitment, hiring, and retention of these individuals. My Administration is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in the Federal workforce through compliance with Executive Order 13163 and achievement of the goals set forth therein over five years, including specific goals for hiring individuals with targeted disabilities.

Section. 2. Recruitment and Hiring of Individuals with Disabilities.
(a) Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor, the Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, shall design model recruitment and hiring strategies for agencies seeking to increase their employment of people with disabilities and develop mandatory training programs for both human resources personnel and hiring managers on the employment of individuals with disabilities.
(b) Within 120 days of the date the Office of Personnel Management sets forth strategies and programs required under subsection (a), each agency shall develop an agency specific plan for promoting employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The plan shall be developed in consultation with and, as appropriate, subject to approval by the Director of the Office of Personnel Management and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and shall, consistent with law, include performance targets and numerical goals for employment of individuals with disabilities and sub goals for employment of individuals with targeted disabilities.
(c) Each agency shall designate a senior-level agency official to be accountable for enhancing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities and individuals with targeted disabilities within the agency, consistent with law, and for meeting the goals of this order. This official, among other things, shall be accountable for developing and implementing the agency's plan under subsection (b), creating recruitment and training programs for employment of individuals with disabilities and targeted disabilities, and coordinating employment counseling to help match the career aspirations of individuals with disabilities to the needs of the agency.
(d) In implementing their plans, agencies, to the extent permitted by law, shall increase utilization of the Federal Government's Schedule A excepted service hiring authority for people with disabilities and increase participation of individuals with disabilities in internships, fellowships, and training and mentoring programs.
(e) The Office of Personnel Management shall assist agencies with the implementation of their plans. The Director of the Office of Personnel Management, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, shall implement a system for reporting regularly to the President, the heads of agencies, and the public on agencies' progress in implementing their plans and the objectives of this order. The Office of Personnel Management, to the extent permitted by law, shall compile and post on its website Government wide statistics on the hiring of individuals with disabilities.

Section. 3. Increasing Agencies' Retention and Return to Work of Individuals with Disabilities.
(a) The Director of the Office of Personnel Management, in consultation with the Secretary of Labor and the Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, shall identify and assist agencies in implementing strategies for retaining Federal workers with disabilities in Federal employment including, but not limited to, training, the use of centralized funds to provide reasonable accommodations, increasing access to appropriate accessible technologies, and ensuring the accessibility of physical and virtual workspaces.
(b) Agencies shall make special efforts, to the extent permitted by law, to ensure the retention of those who are injured on the job. Agencies shall work to improve, expand, and increase successful return to work outcomes for those of their employees who sustain work-related injuries and illnesses, as defined under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA), by increasing the availability of job accommodations and light or limited duty jobs, removing disincentives for FECA claimants to return to work, and taking other appropriate measures.
The Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, shall pursue innovative re-employment strategies and develop policies, procedures, and structures that foster improved return to work outcomes, including by pursuing overall reform of the FECA system. The Secretary of Labor shall also propose specific outcome measures and targets by which each agency's progress in carrying out return to work and FECA claims processing efforts can be assessed.

Section. 4. Definitions.
(a) "Disability" shall be defined as set forth in the ADA Amendments Act of 2008.
(b) "Targeted disability" shall be defined as set forth on the form for self identification of disability, Standard Form 256 (SF 256), issued by the Office of Personnel Management, or any replacements, updates, or revisions thereto.
(c) Not less than one year after the date of this order and in consultation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Labor, and the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management shall review the effectiveness of the definition of targeted disability set forth in SF 256 and replace, update, or revise it as appropriate.
Sec. 5. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) authority granted by law to a department or agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations, and shall not be construed to require any Federal employee to disclose disability status involuntarily.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable by law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
Barack Obama


Governor Patrick Signs Legislation Making Necessary Autism Services More Affordable For Families

BOSTON - Tuesday, August 3, 2010 Gov. Patrick today signed into law a bill that will make essential diagnostic tests, medical treatment and services for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, including applied behavioral analysis and other critical interventions that are determined to be medically necessary, more affordable and accessible for residents of the Commonwealth. The legislation, "An Act Relative to Insurance Coverage for Autism" (HB 4935), goes into effect on January 1, 2011.
"I am proud that Massachusetts now has one of the most comprehensive autism coverage laws in the nation," said Governor Patrick. "This bill offers needed relief for individuals and families struggling to pay for the services they need." "Parents have long been faced with the difficulty of getting necessary medical care for their autistic children covered by insurance companies. Studies have shown that by receiving services early, those diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder will need fewer services later in life," said Senate President Therese Murray. "This law will change existing insurance policy so that we will be able to provide early intervention care to more children with autism, teaching them to communicate and learn at an early age. The passage and signing of this legislation signals an increased understanding about autism and its treatment."

"With more and more Massachusetts families confronting autism, this bill will provide needed relief for families dealing with medical costs as a result of treating this disorder," said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. "I am proud that that we have come together to support families who care for a loved one with autism."

Massachusetts has been a leader in establishing early intervention practices and other supports for people with autism. This legislation will go even further to ensure these vital services are available for children and adults within this vulnerable community. The legislation signed today requires health insurance companies to provide coverage for early and intensive interventions. Under the new law, insurers may not establish any annual or lifetime service limitations on coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders that are less than that for physical conditions. Insurers may also not limit the number of visits an individual may make to an autism services provider. The Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy provided an analysis for the Legislature earlier this year that identified significant financial strain facing families with children with autism.

The state also reviewed evolving treatment data and concluded that the best established treatments for autism have shown substantial efficacy. "No one should be denied a healthy outcome because of the high cost of services. This is a victory for the courageous families who live with the uncertainty of autism daily," said Senator Frederick E. Berry, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. "Today we are taking the necessary steps to transform the lives of people throughout the Commonwealth, so all individuals with autism have access to services and treatment," said Representative Barbara L'Italien, who sponsored the bill in the House. "I am proud of my colleagues in both the House and Senate for passing this important piece of legislation, and I am happy to be with the Governor as he signs this legislation into law. Families impacted by autism have a reason to celebrate today; Massachusetts has reason to celebrate.""Autism insurance coverage represents a systemic change in how many people with autism in Massachusetts will access critical treatment," said Amy K. Weinstock, Insurance Committee Chair for Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts (AFAR). "We are grateful to the members of our community for their tireless advocacy and for the amazing support of Autism Speaks. Representative L'Italien and Senator Berry, we are incredibly fortunate to have you as our champions. Gov. Patrick, thank you for making autism insurance coverage a reality for our families.""The unanimous passage by the Massachusetts House and Senate last week combined with Gov. Patrick's signing of ARICA today is an important reminder of what our elected officials can and will do to help Massachusetts families," said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. "Families here and around the country are literally going broke trying to give children the therapies they need and deserve to meet their full potential. It's time we eliminate this unfair burden and end insurance discrimination in every state in America."

Governor Deval Patrick signs CORI Legislation

Gov. Deval Patrick signed legislation overhauling the state's criminal offender records information system, changes he and other proponents say will reduce recidivism and give former offenders a better chance at finding work.

"The best way to break the cycle of recidivism is to make it possible for people to get a job," Patrick said in a statement. "This legislation brings our outdated criminal history database into the 21st century, ensures law enforcement agencies, employers, and housing providers have access to accurate and complete records in appropriate circumstances, and helps people get back to work so they can support their families."

Under the new law, felony convictions will be available to prospective employers for 10 years and misdemeanor convictions for five years, as long as there are no subsequent offenses. Murder and sex offense convictions remain in the system permanently. In addition, the law allows nonviolent offenders serving mandatory minimum sentences to get supervision and training before being released, and it adds illegal gun possession to the crimes prosecutors can use for pretrial detention of suspects.

"This takes a responsible approach to targeted reforms that improve public safety and address the costly problems of recidivism and overcrowding," Senate President Therese Murray said in a statement. "It also provides important new tools for employers to access the state's criminal records system."

"This legislation strikes a balance to reduce recidivism while remaining tough on violent offenders," added House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. "This bill will provide new opportunities to those who have paid their debt to society while maintaining a strong focus on public safety."

Hamilton Cap Tel Launches New Captioned Telephone Services in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Reprinted with permission from Update a DMH publication

For the first time, captioned telephone services are now available for individuals who are hard of hearing.

AURORA, Neb., July 28 /PRNewswire/- Hamilton Cap Tel and Hamilton Relay, a division of Hamilton Telecommunications, today announced that, starting August 1, for the first time captioned telephone services will be available to the residents of Massachusetts. Now, individuals who are hard of hearing will be able to "see what they say" on the telephone and not miss a word of their telephone conversations.

"Captioned telephone service has never before been available in the state of Massachusetts and we are thrilled to finally be able to offer this service to meet consumer demand," said Frank Pozniak, Executive Director of the State 911 Department. "This service is unprecedented in our state and we have worked for years to make captioned telephone a reality for those who need it. As a result of legislation passed in 2008, starting today we are delivering enhanced technology options to make lives easier for those individuals in Massachusetts who are hard of hearing. This truly is an important milestone for our state and we are happy to be a part of this groundbreaking offering."

Captioned telephone is similar to closed captioning on the television. Using a Cap Tel phone and a standard telephone line, users can listen and read what the other person on the telephone is saying to them on a large, bright screen. Captions are available in English or Spanish. The Cap Tel phone is free to Massachusetts residents who qualify, ensuring that everyone who may benefit from Hamilton Cap Tel will have access to the service.

"Relay services for individuals who are hard of hearing have been available in Massachusetts for years," said Monna Wallace, Director of Programs for the State 911 Department. "We are now taking the next step forward by delivering captioned telephone services throughout the state. We are excited to add Hamilton Cap Tel to our list of available relay services, addressing the requests of many users throughout the State."

For more information about how to access Hamilton Cap Tel and apply for a Cap Tel phone in the state of Massachusetts, please call toll-free,1-800-300-5658. Or you can find out more about Hamilton Cap Tel on-line at: www.HamiltonCapTel.com or www.MassRelayEDP.com.
"We are thrilled to offer this service in Massachusetts and to deliver freedom and greater independence for individuals who have difficulty
hearing on the telephone," said Dixie Ziegler, Vice President of Hamilton Relay. "Captioned telephone exists because every call is important. Our mission is to provide users with a top quality telephone experience, eliminating the frustration of trying to understand what is being said during a call."

MassRelay is a 24/7 service that enables people using a standard telephone to communicate with people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or have difficulty speaking. Cap Tel service in Massachusetts will be funded by the E911/ Disability Access surcharge that is assessed on landline and wireless phones, and is part of the disability access program administered by the State 911 Department.

Hamilton Cap Tel is a service of Hamilton Relay, a division of Hamilton Telecommunications, a diversified communications and technology services provider based in Aurora, Neb. Founded in 1901, Hamilton Telecommunications has grown to encompass eight primary company divisions allowing Hamilton to operate on a local, regional and national basis. Cap Tel is a registered trademark of Ultratec, Inc.

Fuel Assistance
Reprinted from the DTA website

What is the Fuel Assistance Program?
It is an energy assistance program that can help you pay for heating your house or apartment during the heating season, between November 1st and April 30th of each year.

What benefits are available?
The Fuel Assistance Program can help you pay for any fuel (including but not limited to: oil, propane, natural gas, or electric) that you use to heat your house or apartment. If your rent includes heat, the Fuel Assistance Program may help you pay a portion of your rent.

When can you apply?
The application process for the 2010-2011 heating season will begin in October 2010. Applications will be taken by fuel assistance agencies until April 30, 2011. You should apply as soon as possible, as applicants are served on a first come first serve basis. If you received fuel assistance benefits last year, you will receive an application in the mail. If you do not receive a fuel assistance application in the mail, apply by calling and/or visiting the nearest fuel assistance agency in your area.

Where can you apply?
You can apply for fuel assistance at an agency in or near your community. Your case manager can tell you which agency covers your area, or you can call the toll-free "Heatline" at: 1-800-632-8175, or on the internet at www.mass.gov/dhcd. Information about other programs are available at this number and website.

Will this reduce the amount of your cash assistance or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits?
No. The benefits that you receive from the Fuel Assistance Program will not reduce your cash assistance or SNAP benefits. In fact, you may be entitled to more SNAP benefits if: you receive SNAP benefits, you receive fuel assistance or your heat is included in your rent. If you meet these three conditions, call your case manager to see if you qualify for additional SNAP benefits.

What verifications do you need?
You must show proof of your monthly income.
If you receive TAFDC or EAEDC, the enclosed notice contains the verification of your monthly cash assistance. Mail this notice with your application, or take it with you to the nearest fuel assistance agency. Be sure to save the notice until you apply for fuel assistance. You may be eligible for other discounts from your utility company. Ask your utility company for the income guidelines for these discounts.

Can you get help with heat and utility bills from Emergency Assistance?
No. You are not eligible to receive help to cover heat and utility arrearage payments through the Emergency Assistance program.

A submission from the MRC Somerville Office via Crystal J. Hodgkins, M.S., C.R.C.
Jason Wright

Jason Wright is a client at the MRC Somerville Office. The MRC provided him with tuition waivers and other supports to complete his college education.

The following is a synopsis of his plan for a magazine featuring poetry and art by those with mental health disorders and excerpts from a poem he wrote. Jason currently has a website http://oddballmagazine.com/

You ask me, what I am doing with my life. I am a recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Boston. I am still seeking employment and finding it very difficult.

I have made the decision that with my love of writing and my desire to make a difference in the lives of others to develop a plan for a magazine.

The type of magazine I would like to develop would be a vehicle for free speech and open expression of the arts. I plan to concentrate on acquiring submissions of poetry and art. My primary contributors would be people with mental health disorders. I would, of course, accept appropriate submissions from all writers and artists.

However, my mission is to give people with mental health disorders a place to practice and share their writing and artistic skills. I believe that writing is a coping mechanism. In my personal experience with mental health (Schizoid-affective disorder) writing gave me the strength to deal with each day.

The following are excerpts from a poem I wrote for a friend experiencing a manic episode:

For I once was and still am manic and believe it to be a strain on the brain that nobody sees. To believe in things, to dream things, to feel things.

But oh how mania feels! Your body pulse quickens thinking things can change and you can change them! All the rest is this wild embrace that gives a glow to your face and a boost to your step.

The magic of mania the crippling defeat. When the tsunami of sadness crushes all of your dreams.

All that is left is medicine that you take over and over again, the depression and the urge to feel beauty again.

Sleep well my friend. For a manic who can't sleep.

Barry Sumner
Girard Plante

The tumultuous decade of the 1960s witnessed college students collectively protesting the Vietnam War across America's campuses. Civil rights marches and mayhem in the streets gained national outrage and garnered support for the end to decades of injustice. And the tragic assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, culminated in the most violent decade on American soil since the Civil War.

Amidst all the tumult was a wily 21-year-old Barry Sumner, a Marine who would later confront his own calamity. Barry served in the Marine Corps sea air rescue wing in Quantico, VA, rescuing soldiers in training when helicopters crashed in the Potomac River. That's where he picked up his knowledge of firefighting. Barry was honorably discharged in January 1968. It's also the year his life changed dramatically. The 63-year-old New Bedford native is retired and is a longtime disability rights advocate. Since 1998, Barry has served on the Board of Directors of the Cape Organization for the Rights of the Disabled, which is the Independent Living Center for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Barry is an artist with Artists with Disabilities, an MRC affiliate. And he serves on the Statewide Rehabilitation Commission. He has two children and resides in Onset.

Q: You fortunately got through a four-year hitch in the Marine Corps and adjusted quite nicely after your discharge to civilian life. Then tragedy struck on two fronts six months after you returned home. What happened?

A: "I owned a business selling firefighting equipment. And while demonstrating a high expansion foam generator for fighting oil and cellar fires, my right hand got dragged into a fan, which sliced it clear off. My mind was on my 28-year-old brother who was killed two weeks earlier. The mistake was mine."

Q: That's a cruel irony. You never saw action in Vietnam, yet you're injured after building your firefighting business. Do you blame your military experiences in tactics and training on your accident?

A: "No. I was fortunate to have a hand in a hook (in those days). And despite that loss of my hand I could work. That led me to the Mass Rehab system."
Q: What exactly did the MRC do to help you?

A: "They started with getting me my prosthesis. Then my rehab counselor secured me training so I could learn to become functional with the prosthesis."

Q: So with your hook hand you worked as an EMT?

A: "Yes! The MRC assisted me with attending Bristol Community College in mental health, which helped me become one of the original Emergency Medical Technicians in New Bedford in 1975. I loved the work".

Q: You worked as an EMT for only one year and in another ironic twist your job put you in still more jeopardy. How did that occur?

A: "While carrying a patient down some stairs in New Bedford, I fell and caused serious injury to my back. I needed surgery and the City of New Bedford wouldn't allow me to continue being an EMT."

Q: So what did you do the next three decades?

A: "I started a tour boat and fishing guide business. Then I also received my tug boat license from the Coast Guard. I required a special dispensation from the Commandant of the Coast Guard to receive the OK to operate my boat. I underwent a physical exam and passed it."

Q: You then needed another back surgery in 1998, which brought on your current disability?

A: "The back surgery was directly related to my becoming a paraplegic at the T8-T10 level."

Q: The MRC re-entered your life soon after your paralyzing back surgery. How did they help?

A: "I returned to college and earned a degree in Human Services. And MassRehab assisted me in my wood-carving business. I had knowledge of carving from a hobby since I was young. Now, I'm starting a business in wood carving. I make jewelry boxes, shelves, front of deer mantles, signs and so on. My workshop is in my home."

Q: Is there any advice you may offer to people who need vocational rehabilitation?

A: "Don't be afraid to ask questions. Work with your disability, don't allow it to work against you."

Editor's Note: Barry is in the process of building a website to show his collection of wood carvings. Once the website is finished, we will notify readers in the Voice. You may reach Barry via e-mail: b.sumner47@yahoo.com

Did You Know
Girard Plante

For the millions of people with disabilities who must rely on power chairs for mobility most have never given thought to the person responsible for inventing the battery-powered contraption that allows independence and safe, easy movement.

A huge debt of gratitude is owed to the genius of Dr. George Johann Klein, whose intense interest in advancing the cause of humanity allowed him to invent and design the first known concept of today's power chair. Dr. Klein enlisted the help of scientists, engineers, people with disabilities, and members of Canada's medical community, who harbored the same passion to improve the lives of people with physical disabilities.

The need to move beyond the manual wheelchair, which proved to be an immensely helpful mobility device that gave paraplegics the ability to regain independence after the onset of disease, illness, or accident, grew out of World War II. Troops returning from battle without upper-body movement because of spinal cord injury or limbs blown off by battle required the "electric wheelchair" they could independently operate.

In the early 1950s, Dr. Klein saw the need for electric wheelchairs the world over and decided in 1955 to share his electric wheelchair with the United States. Independence for thousands was eagerly grasped with the generosity of Dr. Klein and Canada!

Dr. Klein and his colleagues partnered with the Canadian Paraplegic Association, the National Research Council of Canada, and Canada's Department of Veterans Affairs to develop and mass-produce the incredible invention. The evolution of the electric wheelchair has proven amazing over the past five decades.

Even the evolution in terminology has resulted in the "power chair." Today's power chairs are custom made to meet the array of physical disabilities fitted to meet an individual's unique needs. Whether the power chair includes a joystick, chin switch, sip-and-puff or some such other device to propel a power chair, there are also elevating leg rests, seat elevation, recline and tilt abilities and a host of essential features to allow a person ease of movement and optimal comfort while sitting long hours in a power chair.

Dr. Klein's career focused on numerous noteworthy inventions in Canada. In 1995, he earned his rightful induction to the Canadian Science and Technology Museum Hall of Fame relating directly to his invention of the electric wheelchair and other inventions.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Dr. Klein devoted his career to inventing useful machinery such as the microsurgical staple gun, ZEEP nuclear reactor, and Weasel all-terrain vehicle. Dr. Klein died on Nov. 4, 1992. He was 88.

There is no mistake that the incredible invention of the forerunner to today's power chair has exponentially improved the lives of people with disabilities. By the way: just don't call a power chair an electric chair.

Five Reasons Why We Need Another Disability Blog
Susan Crossley

As budget cuts wreak havoc on services for people with disabilities, we have a choice.

We can continue to advocate for more funding. Another option is to really listen to one another and learn what supports do exist.
At New England INDEX we choose the second option. As a respected leader in providing information and resources to the disability community, we are now offering a venue for people to give suggestions and share their personal experiences in regard to the resources we write about.

Thus our blog begins, my name is Sue Crossley and I am the Blog Coordinator, which basically means I will either be writing the blogs or editing those written by others. I have over 30 years of experience working for people with disabilities and their families during which time I learned a few important lessons.
A person with a disability is very capable of choosing their own dream. To reach that dream in life, whether you have a disability or not, you need support to be successful.

The people who support you may be your family or paid staff from an organization that only serves people with disabilities. But they also must include people from your community who realize that you have something to offer. I have seen many people with disabilities reach their dreams, including home ownership, because people in their communities supported them. As Blog Coordinator, I want to find the people and programs in your community who want to help others reach their dreams. A Blog like no other. Our Blog will be unique for five reasons:

  • A different topic will be presented each month based on what you have been researching on our website.
  • Your stories will be shared so we can learn what resources have truly made a difference in supporting people with disabilities in the community.
  • Exemplary programs will be highlighted each month, programs that may not just serve people with disabilities, but rather the community at large.
  • Guest bloggers will be introduced frequently to share diverse opinions and experience.
  • Most importantly, the Blog will provide an opportunity for you to become empowered by learning what is working in your community.

Know your community despite cuts. We all stand together at a crossroads as budget cuts are impacting the lives of everyone in our State. At the INDEX we believe our communities still provide a wealth of resources regardless of funding and we need to learn more about these resources together.

Our Blog begins with the topic of holiday assistance. We look forward to hearing from you. Contact us at www disabilityinfo.org/blog

Sue Crossley is a nonprofit consultant with over 30 years of experience working for people with disabilities and their families.

ENTRY POINT: New Career Paths for Student with Disabilities who Pursue Science or Engineering Degrees.
A Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Larry Espling

Founded in 1848, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) works to advance science for human well-being through its projects, programs, and publications in the areas of science policy, science education, and international scientific coordination.
With over 134,000 members from 130 countries and 273 affiliated societies comprising more than 10 million members, AAAS is the world's largest federation of scientists.

The association also publishes Science, an editorially independent, multidisciplinary, weekly peer reviewed journal that ranks as the world's most prestigious scientific journal and administers EurekAlert, the online news service featuring the latest discoveries in science and technology.

Entry Point is a program of the AAAS offering outstanding internship opportunities for students with apparent and non-apparent disabilities in science, engineering, mathematics, computer science, and some fields of business. Science and engineering students with disabilities who are earning at least a B average can apply for paid R&D internships in industry and government via the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Entry Point Program.

Students with disabilities in the Entry Point program have work opportunities in private industry and government agencies. These students apply their work skills in real world settings in competitive summer internships. These internships are particularly valuable because of the availability of mentoring and assistive technology, facilitating the entry and advancement of individuals with significant disabilities in competitive employment and research at all levels.

AAAS has developed unique partnerships with IBM, NASA, Merck, Google, Lockheed Martin, CVS, Navair, Pfizer, Infosys, Shell, Proctor & Gamble, and University Science Laboratories to meet their resource needs. Working with its partners, AAAS identifies and screens undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities who are pursuing degrees in science, engineering, mathematics, computer science and business, placing them in paid summer internships.

Entry Point partners and their work sites are located all around the United States. When a student applies to Entry Point, part of the experience is re-locating for ten weeks to another part of the country.

Since 1996, when Entry Point began, 350 students have gone through the program. 92% are either employed full time or have gone to graduate school. Their stories are in marked contrast to the general population of people with disabilities where only 25% have full time jobs.

To meet the challenges of a competitive global economy in the 21st century, private industry and government research agencies must expand the pool of technical talent.

www.entrypoint.org
http://ehrweb.aaas.org/entrypoint/meetstudents.htm
www.EurekAlert.org
http://ehrweb.aaas.org/entrypoint/contact.htm
http://ehrweb.aaas.org/entrypoint/apply.htm

A Call for Action
Ruth Unger

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." Dr. Seuss

I am trying to increase the amount that people who are considered "able disabled" can earn in the workplace while maintaining their SSDI and health benefits without additional cost to the government and will actually raise revenue.

This proposal is intended to generate support for the Benefit Offset Program. The amounts we are currently allowed to earn are insufficient and calculated nationally without regard to an area's cost of living.

I. THE PROBLEM:

A Benefit Offset program was originally proposed in 2005. It is a Social Security proposal intended to provide incentives to people with disabilities to work and to encourage employers to hire. Currently the program is still being studied.

The amount of money a person with a disability is allowed to earn, while on SSDI, is insufficient to enable self-sufficiency and allow people to continue to contribute their skills to the economy in a meaningful way. This is also tied into the fact that businesses and organizations are often not providing health care and other needed benefits.

This causes people with disabilities to apply for food stamps, energy subsidies, and require subsidized housing. What I am proposing is a revenue generator.

The way the benefits are calculated now says that if a person with a disability goes over their SSDI allotment on a monthly basis, they lose their total SSDI which includes health care. I have spoken to employers and because of "difficult scheduling" and lack of flexibility this is a hindrance to hiring people with disabilities.

We need to remove impediments to employers willing to hire people with disabilities, while allowing people with disabilities to work. This situation, as it stands now, discourages both. What follows are some examples:

If I were a teacher with a disability and the salary offer for teaching an individual course or substituting is over the monthly SSDI allotment by as little as $20 I would lose all my benefits or in the latter case have to give up the work. This has actually happened to me.

An accountant could not work extra during tax season. A retail clerk could not work extra for the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday season. Monthly income can and does fluctuate for many jobs.

II. WHAT I WANT TO DO:

I want to see movement on this Benefit Offset Program. It has been in the pipeline since 2005 and stalled.

It is a revenue generator, not an additional cost and will bring in needed tax revenue. My proposal follows the $1 payback to the government for every $2 earned guideline that is already in place with Social Security. Let me be clear: keeping benefits should be set to a reasonable amount. President Obama has stated that citizens may be eligible for college scholarships/grants if they are earning under $49,000. That would seem to be a reasonable cut-off point, particularly for those who have worked 30 to 40 years before they were disabled.

People with a disability, able and willing to work, should be allowed to use their skills and training and not have to live in poverty. The software for the offset program is already written since it is the same basic formula used for Social Security recipients.

III. ADVOCACY AND TEAM BUILDING:
I would like consumers experiencing these issues to join together, families of people with disabilities, nonprofits working with this population, people from the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), Disability Policy Consortium (DPC) and others who think this makes sense as well as lawyers and advocates for the disabled.

Social Security Administration (SSA) employees working on this problem need to be informed and involved. As we further develop a list we would contact and work with these various groups.

Politicians should understand that although there would be huge benefits in allowing working people with disabilities to reach their full earning potential, there may be people needed to administer the program, just as there currently are in Social Security's $2 for $1 program. People working as job coaches and speaking to corporations will be needed to enable people with disabilities to become productive quickly and eliminate initial training time. This is an added value to employers.

This is a call to attract the appropriate "able disabled" workers by letting them know of the new possibilities, via TV, internet, newspapers, radio, and mail. If you are interested in working on this and sharing your story, please contact me via e-mail at runger@dpcma.org.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not represent the views of the MRC or it's staff. The programs and work incentives, which SSA has, are very complex. Should anyone have questions regarding the effect that earnings would have on their SSI or SSDI benefits, they are encouraged to contact the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance program in their area.

FCC Partners With The Coleman Institute And Raising The Floor To Launch Cloud Computing Challenge
Access info

Today the FCC, the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, and Raising the Floor, an international coalition of individuals and organizations who promote internet accessibility for people with disabilities, launched a challenge to the public to submit short multimedia presentations on their visions of how cloud computing can create new opportunities for people with disabilities.

The challenge is part of Chairman Genachowski's Accessibility and Innovation Initiative, announced last July, which brings together parties who have a stake in helping improve communications for the disability community.

The most inspiring visions will be posted on the Commission's Accessibility and Innovation Initiative website: http://www.broadband.gov/accessibilityandinnovation, and will be considered for the Chairman's Awards for Advancement in Accessibility. In addition, the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities will award $1,000 for the best presentation that addresses the interests of people with cognitive disabilities, and Raising the Floor will award $1,000 for the best presentation that addresses the interests of people in developing countries.

The challenge, entitled "Lifted by the Cloud: Visions of Cloud-Enhanced Accessibility," is the first one the FCC has launched on GSA's new platform, which was unveiled at Gov2.0 in September. The platform allows the U.S. Government and the public to bring the best ideas and top talent to bear on our nation's most pressing challenges. "We are very excited to launch this challenge today and to tap into the creativity and ingenuity of the public, including students, developers, filmmakers, and industry representatives," said Pam Gregory, the Director of the FCC's Accessibility and Innovation Initiative. "We believe these kinds of challenges can help broaden awareness and help stimulate innovative solutions for people with disabilities" Gregory replied.

The challenge will run from Oct. 22, 2010, to May 1, 2011. Submissions will be accepted at any point during that time period. Public voting will occur on Challenge.gov from May 2-31, 2011. The winner of this voting will be recognized as "the popular choice."

The Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities is affiliated with the University of Colorado, Boulder. Its mission is to catalyze and integrate advances in science, engineering and technology to promote the quality of life and independent living of people with cognitive disabilities. More information on the Coleman Institute can be found at
http://www.colemaninstitute.org/.

Raising the Floor is an international coalition of individuals and organizations working to ensure the Internet is accessible to people experiencing accessibility or literacy problems, even if they have very limited or no financial resources. The goal is to ensure that individuals who need special interfaces are as free and able as everyone else to use the new and emerging Internet tools and resources to live more independently and productively, and to achieve their life's goals. More information on Raising the Floor can be found at:
http://raisingthefloor.net/.

Further information about the Chairman's Accessibility and Innovation Initiative is available at the Broadband.gov's website, http://www.broadband.gov/accessibilityandinnovation/

Judy Phillips
Artist Biography

Judy Phillips was born in Dorchester, MA in 1947. She grew up in Newton, MA with her parents and sister. Judy remembers beginning to create and sell art because she enjoys the creative process. In 2001, Judy started working at Gateway Arts and soon began creating jewelry. Judy's work has delicate design qualities and can be found at the Gateway Craft's store.

Bracelet
Ruby and Pearl Triple Decker

Are you an artist? Become our next Featured Artist; whether it be painting, drawing or writing poetry, submit your works to us via e-mail to
consumer.involvement@mrc.state.ma.us or call Lisa Weber at
617-204-3638 for more information.

This newsletter is an independent publication sponsored by the MRC State Rehabilitation Council. The opinions expressed in this newsletter do not necessarily reflect the policy and practices of the MRC. They are solely the opinions of consumers of MRC programs and services.

The Consumer's Voice Newsletter
For further information contact Emeka Nwokeji, Director of the Consumer Involvement Program, at 617-204-3665.

To receive the newsletter electronically, send an e-mail to
consumer.involvement@mrc.state.ma.us




This information is provided by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.